Review: The Path (PC)

The Path
Publisher: Tale of Tales
Developer: Tale of Tales
Genre: Adventure
Release Date 03/18/2009

I’ve been waiting for The Path for about a year now. This game promised to return the tale of Little Red Riding Hood to its darker roots. From a brief look at the game’s website one can see that as there are six girls to play with (Sadly that double entendre is far more apropos that you might suspect.). This means the game is not based of the Grimm or Perrault version of the tale, but Der Wolf und die sieben Geißlein.

Charles Perrault was the first man to put the tale of Little Red Riding Hood to print. At the end of Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, Perrault explained, IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS, the metaphor for the story:

From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers, and it is not an unheard thing if the Wolf is thereby provided with his dinner. I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition “… neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!

Okay. The moral is: Don’t talk to or trust strangers. Well, that’s not really the moral or metaphor in The Path.

I knew going into this that the development team, Tale of Tales, made some Avant-Garde artsy titles that really aren’t games per say. The Graveyard, for example, is a game where all you do is sit and wait to die. Although you might not. Compelling, no? Well, the weirdness of The Graveyard is nothing compared to the what awaits you in The Path. I’m going to warn you all now that instead of the original metaphor for LRRH, that The Path is nothing more than one giant metaphor for rape. Rape and murder. All you do in the game is walk around, get a girl raped, and then you take her bleeding battered form to Granny’s house where she gets murdered. Young children and sensitive folk should probably stop here. Hell, *I* should probably stop here, but I promised to review the game and review it I will.

What follows is my commentary on easily the worst game I have ever played. Yes. THE. WORST. This game made me long for Hoshigami and Wrestlemania XXI.

Let’s Review

1. Story

I should warn you there is no real plot to this game. The Path assumes you know enough about LRRH to already know the story and what you need to do, so you do not recieve any instructions. You just have to play the game. You have two options from here. The first is that you can walk the path to Granny’s house and deliver a basket and spend time with her, to which the game scolds you for failing at the important task of getting your character raped and killed. Then you have to play as her (or one of the other girls) until you get the job done right. Please note that walking to grandmother’s house takes about ten minutes of just pressing the arrow key and the shift button down so that your girl runs. God only knows how long it will take if you were to walk at the exceptionally slow speed the game otherwise moves at.

Then there is the “right” way to play the game. This involves going off the path into the woods and getting lost, while picking up flowers and objects that may or may not (depending on the girl you chose) unlock new rooms in granny’s house. All this means is you have a longer ending sequence by doing this, which you will come to reget.

Each girl has three specific locations they can visit within the forest. It will take a lot of time to find them. In one of these three locations the “wolf” will be waiting for you. I should point out that in only one of the six cases is there an actual wolf. The others are all sexual predators in one form or another that rape and beat the girl.

For example, one girl’s wolf is triggered by interacting with a rowboat. Here you get on the boat and row around. Then a cloud comes down from the sky, takes on a humanoid form and plays with the girl, whisking her into the sky with a twirl and a flair of artsy farsty-ness.

Then the screen goes black and when it comes back on, the girl is lying in the rain, beaten and injured and obviously raped.

Another example is with the oldest of the girls. You find an amphitheatre in the forest along with a piano. If you sit down to play the piano, an elf comes up to you, flirts with you, and then you start playing the piano together. The curtain of the stage slowly starts to come down while you play and then it fades out.

Then the screen goes black and when it comes back on, the girl is lying in the rain, beaten and injured and obviously raped.

Each girl has a rape scene like this. I’m glad they don’t show the rape, but Jesus, I’ve written enough folklore and literary criticism papers in my life to get what’s going on here, and so have the dozen other people I’ve shown the rape metaphor scenes to without telling them what they were about to watch.

After the girl is raped, or “ravaged” as the game calls it so as to avoid controversy, you have to drag the girl to grandmother’s house. You can’t run – you can only walk, and even that is at a fraction of the normal ungodly slow pace the game played at. Once you get to the house the game is what the developers call a, “Rail shooter” but what is really you watching another ten minute walking scene through a house until you getting to the bedroom and then murdered. Remember those unlockable rooms I mentioned? Well, all they do is add more time and visuals to the already crazy long walking sequence. After the girl is dead, you get a success screen and now you get to play as one of the other girls.

Good god, this is awful. There is no character development, nor any plot, nor any real dialogue save for the rare sentence or three over a few select objects in the game. It’s just, “Wander around until the girl gets raped and then sit for a very long time pressing the up arrow key until she dies.”

I get the metaphor. I get the attempt at trying to go back to the roots of Little Red Riding Hood. However, ToT has missed what the original story was about, instead choosing to go even darker and giving us a game that anti-video game nuts out there will go even more ballistic over than GTA simply because they will take this as a rape simulator ala Rapealay. Sadly, the game is as boring and dull as it is potentially offensive. No redeeming qualities here at all for plot.

Story Rating: Worthless

2. Graphics

Funny story. My computer can play Left 4 Dead without the slightest hiccup. The Path? Not so much. It’s not that The Path is graphically intensive or takes like four gigs of RAM to play. It’s just the opposite. The game has the usual low level Adventure game requirements and the game looks like a very early PSX or Sega Saturn game, so it’s not killing my graphics card. Yet, I had to turn most of the graphical settings to medium or low in order to decrease the insane amount of lag in this game. At full blast there was a fifteen to sometimes THIRTY SECOND lag between a button press (such as escape to pull up the menu). Hell, I even thought the exceptionally slow movements of the girls was due to my computer being on the fritz or something dying. Sadly, no, this wasn’t the case.

The artistic style of the game is obviously inspired by American McGee’s Alice – if that game was done with both half the budget and talent. Character models are interesting and diverse, but they’re all six different shades of goth gal. Not that I mind that particularly, but it would have been nice to show a range of girls and character designs.

So besides suffering from lag, graphical slowdown, and graphics that would have been decent nearly a decade ago, what else is there? Well, background designs aren’t very good. In fact, it’s quite rubbish. Compare the visuals here to The Cemetery and you’ll notice a severe drop in graphical quality between the two projects. The graphics here are very dull, lacking a lot of detail and rather bland. Also please note that this is with the quality turned UP rather than at the minimum. You don’t really want my thoughts on the low end of the spectrum.

When you get close enough to an interactive object, a large transparent representation will appear on the screen. It will either be of that object, or a portrait of one of the other girls reminding you to go there with that choice rather than your current little girl. Sometimes though, the picture shows up way too soon. A good example of this is Grandmother’s house. In Safe Mode (meaning you haven’t been raped), the house shows up on your screen, with the transparent image taking up nearly all the screen even when you still have several minutes of walking ahead of you. Okay then.

So the graphics are a decade or so old in style and quality, the character designs are ripped from American McGee’s Alice, and there’s a crazy amount of slowdown. Just. Plain. Bad.

Graphics Rating: Bad

3. Sound

There’s no voice acting in the game. There’re just a few different musical tracks, some of which feature girls giggling, girls chanting in what appears to be the faux latin you find in B-horror movies, and some special music during the cut scenes of rape and/or death. None of the music is very good and to be honest, the tracks become irritating as hell when you are wandering through the woods, unable to find the third and final location your girl can go to which is also the one with the wolf and you really REALLY don’t feel like losing the two hours of walking you’ve just done.

The cracking voice of a bad singer when you select a girl, the background static that sounds like a New York Subway (even though you are in a remote forest), the poorly playing violins that sound like a string is going to break at any second. It’s all annoyingly bad to the point where you will mute the game by the time you play as your third girl, if not sooner. The saddest part is that the music comes from Jarboe, who non-goths still wouldn’t know even if I said, “She used to be in The Swans.” The funny thing is Jarboe really IS tone deaf. How would the developers NOT KNOW THIS?

Sound Rating: Bad

4. Control and Gameplay

This is one of the buggiest pieces of crap I have ever played. There are three controls schemes, or at least that is what the game tells us. Neither the Mouse nor 360 Controller schemes work for this game. Only the arrow key worked for controlling the girls, if you can even call it that.

The game moves amazingly slow at walking speed. This is literally the slowest game I have ever played. I have never played a game where walking is this slow. Running, which is the Up arrow and the Shift buttons used in conjunction, is ALMOST as fast as walking in a normal game. Part of the reason this game takes one to two hours per girl is because of how maddingly slow this is. You are literally spending your time just moving at a snail’s pace. It gets worse when you realize you can only walk in the three special locations per girl, and after being “ravaged” you move as one-tenth your normal walking speed, making even the most patient gamer go, “GET ON WITH IT!”

Another problem with running is that when you do so, the game shifts from a third person view, to a bird’s eye top down view, meaning that most of your running time is spent with your vision shrouded by trees and black blurs. You also can’t see collectable objects or locations from this position, making it near useless unless you memorize how far an object was away from you and playing guess and check to pick it up.

Object interaction is amazingly buggy. Supposedly you just stand near an object and you will interact with it. This works half the time. The other half your character just stands there while the game flashes the object wondering why you don’t do anything with it. These even happened to me with the wolf! I spent half an hour trying to get the ravage to happen, but the game just ignored even though I was standing right next to him. I took his hat. I drank three beers. I started a fire. NOTHING. This is so amazingly poorly done and bug ridden, you have to wonder how even the developers could stand to go through this thing with even a single lass.

There’s also the girl in white. Supposedly all you have to do is stand still near here and she will take you back to the path. This works even less than the item interaction. I would stand next to her with several girls and nothing. Then when nothing was around but forest, I quickly went to the bathroom and when I came back, this one time she actually had taken me back to the path. The one time I didn’t want it. Sigh. Even worse, with one of your characters, the girl in white turns out to be the wolf so when you try to get “ravaged,” she takes you back to the path. I can’t tell you how often I had to do that one.

If you hold down the shift button, you can see the items you collected, but nothing else with it. Every so often (100 in game meters) you’ll get a brief look of your trail, but these 100 meters would be several MILES in other games that clock walking (Like say Shadow Hearts), making it rare and useless.

Besides all of the aforementioned issues and bugs, there’s still more. You can get stuck between objects, and then never move again. The camera angles are fixed in certain locations at certain times, meaning you can suddenly disappear from the game and then never be seen again. The bottom line is this is about as unplayable a game as I have ever encountered.

Then there are the “awesome” rail shooter bits, where again, all you do is VERY SLOWLY move to your doom. The developers say this is to mimic you pushing an unwilling girl towards her grisly fate, which I guess is their justification for the game moving slower at this point than any other game I have ever encountered in my years of gaming. You can’t do anything except hit that up arrow key and even then, due to the utter lack of responsiveness in this game, you sit there wondering if you’re actually doing anything, if the game is just that slow, or if you have once again entered glitch city.

The Path is the most worthless gaming experience I have ever sat through. It is barely playable, and even then, that’s me trying to be somewhat kind to this. It is awful in every possible way a game can be awful.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Worthless

5. Replayability

If you truly have the masochistic desire and self loathing to sit through six chapters, each involving an hour to two of hitting arrow keys and then watching an artsy implied rape sequence for each girl followed by murder, then hey, you can get a seventh chapter or epilogue where you can play as a “hero.” Oh goody. To be honest, most gamers will give this up by the first girl, and only the most insane will make it to this “bonus content.”

However, I should point out that all of this torture is a single game. In a second game, you’ll find locations in the same spot, and everything will unfold in the exact same way, save for the order you use the girls. Even the biggest fan of this, of which such a thing is as likely to exists as mermaids or flying monkeys, would be hard pressed to admit there is any real replay value due to the game being a fairly linear excruciating mess.

There is some potential for replay, but due to the game being so god awful, it’s lost in the mess.

Replayability Rating: Bad

6. Balance

Between the bugs, the intolerable length, the lackluster and often unresponsive gameplay, and the fact that you are more a bystander watching the gaming equivalent of Andy Wharhol’s Dracula means that this game has little to no balance. There’s no actual playing of the game save for the rare bit of interaction, and even that doesn’t work half the time. Yes I know you want me to do something with the TV, but my girl is just standing there. Maybe if you were functioning properly and weren’t such a buggy rape factory, I would be able to do something faster than the speed of compost decaying.

As the game is flawed in every way possible. From being the slowest moving game ever, to two out of the three control schemes not functioning properly, this is yet another category where the game can only receive the lowest possible marks we give here. Stay the hell away from this. Hide your money and save your sanity.

Balance Rating: Worthless

7. Originality

Okay, it’s rather sad that I can think of multiple rape games available to consumers. However this is the only one where rape is done in an artsy Eastern-European sort of way. I guess that’s SOMETHING. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel at least does the ghoul on hooker rape in a way that is obviously meant to be Police Academy funny. Take that for what you will.

I can thankfully think of other games where legends and folk tales are brought back to their original (or even slightly darker) stories. Best of all the dual Persona 2 games in this regard. I can also think of a myriad of better Adventure games that do these latter two things quite well. Prisoner of Ice is a good example.

The truth is, The Path wanted to be an artsy circling back to the original portents variant of the Little Red Riding Hood legend. However, it fails in this regard by missing the true moral of the story, and then it continues to fail in every way possible with lag, subpar graphics, a lack of any real plot and some of the slowest and most unresponsive gameplay in the history of this industry.

This is the only rape-based game I can think of that has made it to the states besides Rapealay and Psychotic and that’s a good thing. In The Path‘s defense, it does a lot of the rape metaphorically and it doesn’t show anything graphic. In Rapealay‘s defense, it’s actually a well made game even though the content should offend damn near everyone.

Basically The Path isn’t as original as Tale of Tales would have you believe. There’s a spark of originality, but all of the things in this game, including the rape sim aspects, have been done before and in far better ways.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

I have never enjoyed myself less with a game. I have never wanted to stop playing a game more. ANY game that involves an hour of doing nothing but staring at a screen while watching a character walk, pick up flowers and then get raped followed by death is about as bad as a game can get. Really? Who would find this fun? Who would want to play more than a single girl’s story and witness their grisly demise? The game is just so slow, so buggy, and so inane, that there were times this thing made me want to quit writing about games completely. IT’S THAT BAD.

Again, I have never disliked my time with a game more. Even other things that I gave exceptionally low scores to, like Hellboy: Science of Evil, had SOME redeeming qualities. Not The Path.

Addictiveness Rating: Worthless

9. Appeal Factor

Okay, let’s play a game. Raise your hand if you want to play a game based on Little Red Riding Hood. Hey look at that – lots of hands are up. Okay. Who wants to play a DARK version of that story akin to the original tellings? Still lots of hands. Okay, who wants to play a game where there is massive lag between button pressing and the actual reaction from the game? Oh. Less hands. Who wants to play a game where the interactivity only works half the time. Even less hands. Who wants to play a game with all this and involves you pushing your main characters, some as young as seven or nine years old to be raped by creepy pedophiles and then you make them crawl to their last bastion of hope and solace only to have them be murdered in a place they would otherwise consider safe? Wow. Are there any hands left up? If so, I seriously suggest you getting psychological help. NOW.

There is nothing about this game that any sane person would enjoy. There is nothing fun or interesting. It’s just a massive pile of crap interspersed with the rape and killing of LITTLE GIRLS. How can anyone find that appealing?

Appeal Factor Rating: Worthless

10. Miscellaneous

What more can be said? I’ve already pointed out that the game is excruciatingly slow, that it is buggy as hell, that the controls barely work, that it’s ugly, that the music is awful, that the game will offend the vast majority of people that encounter it, and that it is easily the worst game I have ever played since I first picked up an Atari 2600 controller nearly three decades ago.

This is one of those video games to avoid at all costs. I’m sure I’ll get some apologist for why the game is so buggy or telling me that I didn’t get it and that it’s okay to play a game where the goal is to steer your protagonists into rape and death when these girls should be learning basic multiplication or thinking about getting their driver’s license. That I sucked at the game even though I’ve beaten it. In the end all those people are really saying is, “It’s okay to make a hideously flawed game that features rape as the climax of all six chapters if it’s done in an artsy manner.” No it’s not okay. It’s never okay. It’s shit like this that gets ignorant congressmen and senators to raise holy hell about a genre of entertainment they have never tried, much less know anything about. This is just ammunition for the ignorant and angry mobs. Thank god it’s such an independent game, that it will never raise any real fuss. Let’s all keep it as little known as we possibly we can.

Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless

The Scores
Story/Modes: Worthless
Graphics: Bad
Sound: Bad
Control and Gameplay: Worthless
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Worthless
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Worthless
Miscellaneous: Worthless

Short Attention Span Summary

A game that lacks any redeeming qualities whatsoever, The Path should not have been made. It’s buggy, unresponsive, ugly, amazingly dull ,and worst of all your goal is to get little girls between the ages of 7 and 19 raped and killed. Tale of Tales may think they have recaptured the original meaning of Little Red Riding Hood when Charles Perrault first put pen to paper, but they are so far off, the Frenchman would be disgusted and aghast to see what he has inspired. This is easily the worst game I have ever played and it saddens me to write the following sentence: “If you really want a rape sim, there are better games out there for you to experience.” The Path may put rape in an artsy metaphorical way, but any gamer that finds any sort of rape and murder of children as entertainment should be kept as far away from our collective fandom as possible lest Jack Thompson finds them before the police do.

UPDATE 3/23/2009, 8:13PM EST: Jarboe commented to me a few minutes ago that the conversation we had before the review went up never took place. As it was done over email, Jarboe says that the person I spoke to must have been a fake. In fact, the email I had the “rape and murder” conversation is ever so slightly different one from the email I just recieved from her. As such, there is a chance that the person I spoke to about the game that was claiming to be Jarboe was a magical internet fraudster. If this turns out to be true, then I need to apologize to Jarboe for hurting her feelings and let you, our readers, know that two of the comments in the thread below are erroneous. I’m going to do a little investigating and until I know for sure, I’m going to turn off comments until I know if it turns out I was tricked.

Update 3/23/2009 8:48PM EST Okay. It appears I’ve hurt the feelings of someone I thought was my friend, and to be honest, that’s not cool on my part. A review is about the product and not the people that made the game. The fact I hurt someone’s personal and not professional feelings with this review doesn’t sit well with me, so I do want to apologize to anyone who was hurt by my review in Tale of Tales. I still think the game is god awful, but please know I don’t think any of YOU that made the game are. Call this covering my bases.

So I would like to make it clear that the Jarboe that made this “Of course this is just a rape and murder game” was someone pretending to be her, most likely in an attempt to create more drama and negative attention for this game (Like MY REVIEW wasn’t enough) and that I hurt the real one’s feelings by making the “tone deaf” comment which was meant to be a joke. Sorry about that Jarboe. It was meant to be light hearted in an otherwise very critical review. None of this was meant to be mean towards you.